2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at the year 2016 with the best of Lifetime!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2016!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

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Best Picture
Bad Sister, produced by Robert Ballo, Timothy O. Johnson, Rukmani Jones, Ken Sanders
The Cheerleader Murders, produced by Sharon Bordas, Arthur Edmonds III, Hannah Pillemer, Fernando Szew, Jennifer Westin
Girl in the Box, produced by Stephen Kemp, Charles Tremayne, Thomas Vencelides
Inspired to Kill, produced by Johnson Chan, Michael Fiefer, Douglas Howell, Stephanie Rennie, Vincet Reppert, Nathan Schwab, Tammana Shah, Shawn Tira
Manson’s Lost Girls, produced by Nancy Bennett, Kyle A. Clark, Lawrence Ducceschi, Joan Harrison, Jonathan Koch, Stephen Kronish, Steven Michaels, Lina Wong
Mommy’s Little Girl, produced by Tom Berry, Steve Boisvert, Neil Bregman, Cinthia Burke, Christine Conradt, Curtis Crawford, Pierre David, Donald M. Osborne, Andrew E. Pecs
*A Mother’s Escape, produced by Sharon Bordas, Lori Bell Leahy, Michael Leahy, Kristofer McNeeley, Fernando Szew
My Sweet Audrina, produced by Dan Angel, David Calvert-Jones, Harvey Kahn, Kane Lee, Tom Mazza, Mike Rohl, Jane Startz
The Night Stalker, produced by Matthew R. Brady, Patrick G. Ingram, Michel Rangel, Alisa Tager
The Wrong Car, produced by Mark Donadio, Miriam Marcus, Molly Martin, Michael O’Neil

Best Director
Doug Campbell for Bad Sister
Megan Griffiths for The Night Stalker
*Blair Hayes for A Mother’s Escape
David Jackson for The Cheerleader Murders
Leslie Libman for Manson’s Lost Girls
Mike Rohl for My Sweet Audrina

Best Actress
*Tara Buck in A Mother’s Escape
India Eisley in My Sweet Audrina
MacKenzie Mauzy in Manson’s Lost Girls
Alyshia Ochse in Bad Sister
Karissa Lee Staples in Inspired To Kill
Addison Timlin in Girl in the Box

Best Actor
Zane Holtz in Girl in the Box
Lou Diamond Phillips in The Night Stalker
*Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor: The Return
Antonio Sabato, Jr in Inspired To Kill
Jason-Shane Scott in The Wrong Roommate
Jeff Ward in Manson’s Lost Girls

Best Supporting Actress
*Toni Atkins in My Sweet Audrina
Eden Brolin in Manson’s Lost Girls
Zoe De Grande Maison in Pregnant at 17
Beth Grant in A Mother’s Escape
Ryan Newman in Bad Sister
Zelda Williams in Girl in the Box

Best Supporting Actor
Blake Berris in Wrong Swipe
Rogan Christopher in Pregnant at 17
*Rhett Kidd in The Wrong Car
Christian Madsen in Manson’s Lost Girls
William McNamara in The Wrong Roommate
James Tupper in My Sweet Audrina

Best Screenplay
Bad Sister, Barbara Kymlicka
*The Cheerleader Murders, Matt Young
Girl in the Box, Stephen Kemp
Mommy’s Little Girl, Christine Conradt
A Mother’s Escape, Mike Bencivenga, Blair Hayes, Kristofer McNeeley
My Sweet Audrina, Scarlett Lacey

Best Cinematography
The Cheerleader Murders, Denis Maloney
Mommy’s Little Girl, Bill St. John
*A Mother’s Escape, Samuel Calvin
My Sweet Audrina, James Liston
The Night Stalker, Quyen Tran
The Wrong Car, Terrence Hayes

Best Costuming
Girl in the Box, Barb Cardoso, Tania Pedro
Manson’s Lost Girls, Dorothy Amos
*My Sweet Audrina, Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh
The Night Stalker, Rebecca Luke
The Red Dress, Sophie Pace
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Mary McLeod

Best Editing
The Cheerleader Murders, Eric Potter
Girl in the Box, Julian Hart
Manson’s Lost Girls, Josh Hegard
*A Mother’s Escape, Travis Graalman
My Sweet Audrina, Charles Robichaud
The Night Stalker, Celia Beasley

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Girl in the Box, Claudia Breckenridge, Jen Fisher, Oriana Rossi, Alex Rotundo, Collette Tolen
Killing Mommy, Cinthia Burke, Christie Capustinsky, Kevin Crawley, Kirsten Fairfield, Margaret Harding-Crawley, Corey J. Stone
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Jenni Brown Greenberg, Randi Mavestrand, Kelly Muldoon, Natalie Thimm
A Mother’s Escape, Jenny Hausam, Toni Mario
My Sweet Audrina, Alannah Bilodeau
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Tara Hadden-Watts, Alexandra Holmes

Best Original Score
911 Nightmare, David Findlay
*The Cheerleader Murders, Cladue Foisy
Inspired To Kill, Brandon Jarrett
A Mother’s Escape, Todd Haberman
My Sweet Audrina, Graeme Coleman
The Wrong Car, Ed Grenga

Best Production Design
Bad Sister, Lia Burton, Danielle Lee
Girl in the Box, Andrew Berry, Jere Sallee
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Cynthia E. Hill, Linda Spheeris
A Mother’s Escape, Zackary Steven Graham
My Sweet Audrina, Tink, Janessa Hitsman
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, James Robbins, Courtney Stockstad, Amanda Christmas

Best Sound
*Center Stage: On Pointe
The Cheerleader Murders
Honeymoon from Hell
I Have Your Children
Inspired to Kill
Toni Braxton: Unreak My Heart

Best Visual Effects
Final Destiny
*Flashback
House of Darkness
The Inherited
Little Girl’s Secret
The Watcher

Congratulations to all the nominees and thank you for keeping us entertained in 2016!

Want to see my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2015?  Click here!

And if you want to see my picks from 2014, click here!

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2016 with the 16 worst films of the year!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy

Hallmark Review: Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge, Part 2 (2016, dir. Mike Rohl)


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I did say I would write this a few days after I watched part 1, but obviously that didn’t happen. My health problems hit me hard. That’s why I greatly appreciated the person who thanked me for providing instructions on how to find songs used in Hallmark movies in my review of Valentine Ever After. I also found it hilarious to receive a comment by someone who I believe thinks they know quite a bit about Hallmark movies seeing as they wanted to lecture me about them bundled together with personal attacks. They must have missed the recent Hallmark movie Hearts of Spring. It covered leaving nasty comments with personal attacks about how you know better than someone about something on that person’s blog when you disagree with their opinion and the damage it can cause. It was also about mint chocolate chip milkshakes.

But we aren’t here to discuss the wonderful world of writing movie reviews. We’re here to discuss this film, and hopefully have a little fun doing it. Especially with what happened today. Right, Ted?

Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge, Part 1 (2015, dir. Mike Rohl)

Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge, Part 1 (2015, dir. Mike Rohl)

The movie begins not quite where the first film left off. The first film had two kids named Ryan and Molly who go to college, meet, and fall in love before going their separate ways basically because there was a second part to the movie. The actual reasons are that there was an extra guy and girl along with Molly’s dad who came in between the two of them. It also had the story of Charlie and Donna who come together after a personal tragedy to create a bookstore whose main mission isn’t so much to sell books, but act as a place where people can bond over their love of reading. They called it The Bridge. The movie ended with Donna turning down Charlie to go back to church with him and standing at the checkout counter with “to be continued…” below her.

This film begins by treating us to that conversation between Molly (Katie Findlay) and Ryan (Wyatt Nash) from the end of the first film. That one where the phones were sometimes lit up near the character’s ear, and sometimes not.

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I’m still not sure why that was a thing. To my knowledge, all cellphones turn the screen black so that you don’t accidentally hit buttons with your face when you are talking on them next to your ear. I’ve seen other Hallmark movies do this right sometimes and other times incorrectly.

After that we cut to Seattle, Washington 7 years later. Seeing as the first film started in 2009 and took them to Christmas of that year, it would mean that this film takes place in 2016 during the holidays. I guess that’s why they originally planned to air this at that time. I can’t imagine what a disaster that would have been considering the plot of this film. Then they cut to this shot that immediately follows the title card, which told us when and where we are.

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I know A Christmas Detour had a litany of ridiculously photoshopped in Christmas stuff at the very beginning of the film. However, not only does director Ron Oliver have a sense of humor, but his movie was supposed to be a comedy. These two movies on the other hand are supposed to be rather serious. Plus, the movie then cuts inside to show us Molly and her dad (Steve Bacic) who-along with the sets-announce clearly that we are at his business. The establishing shot didn’t need to be there. Particularly if this was how it was going to look. While not needing to be there, I can’t say I’m shocked that it ended up there after seeing 170+ Hallmark films at the time of writing this review. Just like I’m not shocked that the dialog between Molly and her dad is there establish that she is on the brink of marrying the guy who wasn’t worth mentioning in my first review and becoming CEO of her dad’s company just before fate will intervene to bring her back to Ryan. That’s her Hallmark movie within this Hallmark movie.

Now we are reintroduced to Ryan who has just arrived home for the holidays. They decided to age Wyatt by having him grow a little facial hair.

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I’m sorry, but there’s just something about the pattern of his mustache hair that says Frollo Gaston from The Secret of the Hunchback (1996) to me.

The Secret of the Hunchback (1996, dir. Mike Joens & Ken C. Johnson)

The Secret of the Hunchback (1996, dir. Mike Joens & Ken C. Johnson)

While I really did think it was going to happen, Charlie does not sprout wings in this like Quasimodo does in that film to reveal he’s an angel.

If there’s anything they did to Molly to age her, then it’s so superficial that I didn’t even notice. Still, she does actually look like an adult instead of Emilia Clarke in Terminator Genisys (2015) who really looked like a teenager.

Then we are re-introduced to Charlie (Ted McGinley) as he goes around town saying the bookstore will be rebuilt and open for business soon. It’s at times like this in the film that I wonder if it was purely budget or if Hallmark trimmed a few scenes to make this fit the runtime they had for this early airing of the film. We never really see the storm except for a weird scene. Charlie enters The Bridge after talking to people on the street and then looks up at a hole in his ceiling when we get a flashback to the storm. It’s very short, but at first I honestly thought Donna (Faith Ford) had been struck by lightning.

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It’s a very short scene. I didn’t try to catch a screenshot like that. It’s how it came out. It’s also the only one I have that illustrates the lightning part of things.

In the first film, Charlie had a character who was thin as a playing card. In this second film, McGinley actually gets to do some acting as we see him trying to deal with the destruction of the bookstore. Of course good acting for Charlie is not meant to be here for some reason so he winds up getting attacked by a pole in his car and is out in a coma for the remainder of the film. That’s too bad cause for a brief period there, you really do get a glimpse of McGinley adding some depth to Charlie.

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Then Molly comes back to town and discovers this whole situation with The Bridge along with Ryan. By the way, that’s the whole movie. Charlie ends up in a coma because he shouldn’t have been behind the wheel in his state and hit a pole. Molly comes back to town and with Ryan’s help, rallies the community and leverages the Internet to rebuild The Bridge. Then we get Charlie waking up from his coma to find that all is well thanks to the bonds he formed with and between the people the bookstore touched. I would think Hallmark viewers would be expecting something more substantial seeing as they were being asked to wait a whole year for this second film.

There are a couple of little subplots if you can even call them that. It’s really just the film tying up a few loose ends/removing a few roadblocks concerning Molly and Ryan to make sure they can end the film on a kiss between them.

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There is one thing I found unintentionally funny about this movie.

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I get why there are no last names. I mean I have seen Hallmark movies populate lists of names like this with crew members, but I understand. What’s funny is the one on the bottom. I wouldn’t think it was worth mentioning the obvious thing people associate with the name Slim if not for something that happened while I was watching the film. I mean other than this obvious association with the name Slim.

 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, dir. Stanley Kubrick)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, dir. Stanley Kubrick)

I’m going to mention it because there is an actor in this movie that I kept mistaking for Wyatt Nash.

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It really took till this scene for me to know for sure that I was seeing a different character when the guy in the blue shirt was onscreen. So, of course I’m thinking “will the real Wyatt Nash please stand up” when I see the name Slim.

My final thoughts on this one are that they basically took a single Hallmark film and divided it in two. If this had been condensed to a single film, then it still wouldn’t have been that good honestly, but it would have been an actual Hallmark movie. To give Karen Kingsbury the benefit of the doubt again, I have to imagine that her book didn’t divide the story with a seven year gap. I’m guessing there was more time to develop their relationship and flesh out Donna and Charlie that builds to all the connections that developed through the bookstore ultimately allowing them all to survive the literal and metaphorical storm. With obvious religious stuff that I’m sure is more pronounced in the book thrown in.

Long story short, don’t bother with either of these movies. There are far better films Hallmark has made. Even their usual average B-Movies are also often enjoyable on some level. Even if that is just the enjoyment of riffing on them and noticing goofs they make. Even the screenwriter of Hello, It’s Me told me on Twitter she was enjoying my reactions to the dialog she had written. People have a lot of fun doing live tweets of Hallmark movies and the cast and crew will sometimes hop onboard to have fun with the audience too. At the end of the day, these reviews are to give you my opinion on the film and to hopefully guide you to ones you’ll enjoy. Even if that’s just because I’ve talked about it enough that regardless of what I thought about it, you decide it sounds like something you might enjoy.

As always if they list them, here are the songs:

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It seems to be a regular thing for me when I write these reviews to listen to a single song on an endless repeat. Might as well mention it as a little footnote for people. The song for this review was Holding Back the Years by Simply Red.

In retrospect, I probably should have been listening to Culture Club’s Do You Really Want To Hurt Me.

Hallmark Review: Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge, Part 1 (2015, dir. Mike Rohl)


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I know I’m a little late to this one, but there’s a real benefit to that for me. I get to watch part two in a few days. Hallmark was originally going to wait a whole year to air the second part. However, after receiving a bunch of angry feedback, which must have been really bad, they aired the second part in March. Hallmark of course kept calling it “popular demand.” I doubt that. This is going to be a short review because there isn’t a movie here. I’m going to deflate it for you and me. If you’ve already seen The Notebook (2004), then just go watch that again. This could have easily been called Karen Kingsbury’s The Notebook. It’s also one of the most lazily produced Hallmark movies I’ve watched so far. How fast do we get to see that? Here is what it cuts to right after that shot above.

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I had no idea that North Carolina moved to the metric system back in the 1990s. I also didn’t know that North Carolina moved to British Columbia, which is the only place Murchie’s exists. That’s Ted McGinley down there as Charlie. He will be a slightly altered psychic version of himself from The Note movies. Inside we find Donna played by Faith Ford.

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It also looks like Karen Kingsbury can time travel back to 1997 to place her book released in 2015 on the shelves. It will pop up in other places too. There are of course other recent books back in 1997 as well.

They meet over a copy of Slow Road to Brownsville by David Reynolds, fall in love, get married, she gets pregnant, it’s stillborn, and suddenly they get the idea to create a bookstore in order to get over their loss by helping others via that bookstore. Bookstore made! Enter the kids of the film.

Now we meet every rich young girl heading off to college.

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I’m really glad this is a Hallmark movie and not a Lifetime movie, or that shot would probably mean something totally different. Her name is Molly (Katie Findlay) and she’s from a mansion with text floating below it that tells us we are now in “Seattle 2009”. The back of that head belongs to every father who wants their kid to go to college so they can come back and take over the family business. He is played by actor Steve Bacic. Another guy comes into the room here. That sentence alone is about as much acknowledgment of his character this movie gives him. We also find out that Molly and her best friend are actually 300 years old on top of her friend being cute and funny. Those lines and a few others are there because they didn’t have much faith in Katie Findlay and Steve Bacic to convey their relationship to us with their face and body language even though they both did that perfectly. Especially Steve Bacic who comes prepackaged with the face that instantly says that.

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Then this happens.

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Not sure what happened with the camera there, but moving on. We also find out that her mother is dead because Hallmark, and that Molly has no major. That doesn’t sound odd. She’s a freshman.

Anyways, we are now off to Nashville, Tennessee. Molly nearly walks into oncoming traffic so that her love interest for the movie can rescue her. His name is Ryan (Wyatt Nash) since going with Noah would be too obvious considering a storm is going to wipe out the bookstore in part two.

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That thing popping up behind him is a guitar because he’s a musician. They go to sign up for classes and keep finding that they are picking out the same ones. They say it’s to “step outside [their] comfort zone.” He immediately takes her to The Bridge, which is the name of the bookstore. We again find there are Karen Kingsbury books all over the place. Also, Karen has once again used her powers of time travel to make a cameo.

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If R.L. Stine can use his ability to slide into different dimensions in order to appear in Goosebumps (2015), then I’m fine with this.

Upon meeting Molly, Charlie immediately is able to tell that she has traveled out of the country, is a sport’s fan, and she loved The Little House Series as a kid. Ryan says Charlie is a magician, but I’m waiting for part two where I’m sure he’s going to turn out to be a Whitelighter. He’s as devoid of self as Brian Krause’s character was on that show. So is Ryan for that matter.

This all goes exactly where you think it does. They look around and he drops her out on a trail to walk home through the forest.

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I know that they later explain this as her trying to hide that her Dad has her setup in a great place and she is trying to hide that from him, but this still came across as weird.

Ryan decides to take Molly on a tour of Franklin, Tennessee. He says, “Most people head straight for Nashville, but Franklin is really hitting its stride.” I agree, it is well on its way to turning into Oak Bay, British Columbia as those street signs and banner behind them announce to the audience.

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They have some more back and forth, then it’s back to the forest for Molly.

There’s a lot of talking and it is a bit tough to tell how much time has past. It all amounts to them having something they want to do, but needing a kick in the butt in order to follow through with it. That, and even after she tells him about living in a great house, he still leaves her in the forest. She also gives him a copy of Jane Eyre. Never read it, but I have seen I Walked With A Zombie (1943), which probably is the weirdest film adaptation of that book.

Some blonde shows up now for the same reason as the guy from the beginning and is as worth mentioning as a single sentence affords. We need to keep moving cause we have plenty less of this movie to talk about.

Quick scene of Charlie harassing his wife to come to church with him.

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No, he doesn’t quote the title of his 2015 movie Do You Believe?, and he gives in to go see a cheesy action flick. Would have made my day if he said the local theater was doing a retrospective of 90s action films and they were going to show Blue Tornado (1991).

The main thing the movie revolves around is an assignment to make a video about where he is going to be in 10 years that Ryan has been given. On the Charlie and Donna side, it’s figuring out that bookstores aren’t just a checkout counter and never really were in order to keep afloat.

Then…well…things sure happen. Sort of. They just spend time together. She starts coming around to not taking over the family business. We find out he can’t sing, but the movie tells us he is amazing and he is offered a chance to drop out to go on tour with someone. You aren’t missing anything. Oh, we do find out that Charlie really likes Christmas!

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He also believes that dogs have every right to be chefs.

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More things happen. Blah. Then this occurs.

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Yes, those three things do happen in quick succession. We see Douglas Sirk snow outside, Ryan says “it’s snowing”, and then Ryan and Molly step outside to no snow falling. It doesn’t start up again either.

Stuff happens and Molly’s cellphone magically goes from being lit to dark a couple of times between camera cuts during a single conversation. That part was at least entertaining.

Ryan and Molly are apart. Charlie and Donna are still together. Donna still won’t go to church with him. And to be continued…

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I jumped over scenes, but you missed nothing. They are just people in front of a camera doing and saying nothing of consequence. In other words, it’s like watching The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014). The Bridge is the classic tale of a writer who took a bunch of romance cliches, arranged them into a religious allegory, Hallmark saw what they thought was a gold mine, threw as little money as possible at it, delivered a movie where nothing happens or is resolved, told people they’d have to wait a year for the conclusion, and then were told that was unacceptable by their audience so they aired part two a few a months later. I haven’t read the book, but to give Kingsbury the benefit of the doubt, I would be pissed to see my work turned into this if I were her.

I’ve only glanced at the plot summary for part two, but I’m guessing her stillborn pregnancy isn’t water under The Bridge. It will reappear as a literal storm that destroys the bookstore. Charlie will die in the comfort of his religion and with her side at his side. Donna will come to the Church. The movie will still think we actually care about the two young actor’s story who are there just to have a happy ending contrast to the patchwork life led by Donna and Charlie. Finally, Ryan and Molly will have a kid that will be the grandchild Donna never had after she and Charlie largely adopted Ryan and Molly in their own way. At least that’s what I am expecting.

I have to watch part two at this point, but you don’t have to watch either of them.

Cleaning Out The DVR #3: My Sweet Audrina (dir by Mike Rohl)


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After I finished watching The Bridge on The River Kwai, I decided to watch a more recent film that was on my DVR.  I selected My Sweet Audrina, a film that made its debut, this January, on Lifetime.  Would My Sweet Audrina prove to be as good a film as The Bridge on the River Kwai?  Read on to find out…

I have to admit that, despite my well-known love for over-the-top Lifetime melodrama, I was not particularly enthusiastic about watching My Sweet Audrina.  Though I missed the film when it was originally broadcast, I did see the commercials leading up to it.  “From the author of Flowers In The Attic,” the commercials announced, which led me to believe that My Sweet Audrina would be yet another installment in the Flowers saga.  And don’t get me wrong — I enjoyed Flowers In The Attic and I thought If There Be Thorns had some good moments but, after four movies about that messed up, incestuous family, I was ready to move on.

However, once I started watching the film, I quickly discovered that — despite some definite similarities — My Sweet Audrina has nothing to do with Flowers in the Attic.  True, it does deal with family secrets and sexual repression and a young woman who is never allowed to leave her family’s Victorian mansion but other than that, it has absolutely nothing to do with Flowers In the Attic.

Audrina (India Eisley) believes that she is nine years old but she is actually a teenager.  She spends almost all of her time isolated from the rest of the world.  Her father (James Tupper) refuses to let Audrina interact with the outside world, convinced that she will suffer the same fate that happened to a mysterious figure known as “the first Audrina.”  Audrina’s older sister, Vera (Toni Atkins), is jealous of the attention that their father devotes to Audrina.  She deals with her anger by intentionally injuring herself and having sex with everyone she meets and then taunting the repressed Audrina with the details.  When a handsome piano teacher shows up to give her lessons, Audrina is ashamed when she feels attracted to him and then is angered when Vera steals him away.

Fortunately for Audrina, a very understanding neighbor named Arden Lowe (William Moseley) has fallen for in love with her.  (In what world does a handsome young man fall in love with a strange girl who has no friends, no understanding of the world, and is totally terrified of sex?  The world of Lifetime, of course!)  However, even after marrying Arden, Audrina is still haunted by disturbing nightmares and is incapable of enjoying sex.

Of course, it all comes down to the mystery of what happened to the first Audrina.  And fear not!  All questions are eventually answered.  Of course, the answers don’t really make any sense but I guess that’s kind of the point.  The melodrama of My Sweet Audrina is so pure and unapologetically over the top that it doesn’t have to follow any logic other than its own.

Visually, My Sweet Audrina follows the lushly gothic pattern previously established by Flowers In The Attic.  The sets are elaborate, the clothes are to die for (even Audrina’s supposedly drab outfits have a definite flair to the,), and all of the performers are nice to look at.  India Eisley does a good job as Audrina but, for me, Toni Atkins stole the entire film as the obsessively self-destructive Vera.

For lovers of over-the-top melodrama, My Sweet Audrina is a lot of fun.

And if you’re not a lover of over-the-top melodrama … well, then you probably wouldn’t be watching Lifetime in the first place!

(But, to answer the question I asked at the start of this review, My Sweet Audrina is not as good as The Bridge on The River Kwai.  But it’s still pretty entertaining!)